Are you looking to visit a small fairytale like town, one steeped in history and charm? Well, Germany’s town of Monschau is the place to visit.
Tucked away in the hills of the Eifel region lies a historic and picturesque town which has remained virtually untouched over the past several centuries. Considered to be the most beautiful town in this region, Monschau makes you feel like you have stepped back in time, with its small winding cobble-stoned streets and its half-timbered buildings alongside the meandering Rur River. Sitting on the border between Belgium and Germany, this makes a perfect daytrip from either destination.
History tells us that until 1918, Monschau was actually known as Montjoie (in French), as it sits just 2 km from the Belgian border. The Burg Monschau (or castle) overlooking the town, originated in the 13th century, fell to ruins in the early 1800s, and what remains today, operates as a youth hostel. There are over 300 buildings that are listed as monuments, thankfully, because the town was left intact after WWII.
While staying in Brussels, this made for an easy daytrip, and it is only 30 minutes from Aachen, another beautiful historic town in Germany. Driving from Belgium to Germany brings you through dense forest for about 2 kms and then you realize you have crossed the border. You will need to park just outside the town, but it is only a short walk until you come across a small footbridge brimming with flowers presenting you wonderful views of the beginning of the town.
One of the first historic buildings you will notice is Rotes Haus (or Red House). Dating back to 1756, it was the former home of the Scheibler family, who were prominent cloth merchants. Today, it is a small private museum that you may wish to visit. Beyond here, you will be immediately struck by the vast number of cafes for such a small town. All of them look equally charming and offer a delicious selection of kaffee kuchen (or coffee and cake). So how do you decide? We choose the Lütticher Hof, as it has a lovely terrace at the back which overlooks the rustling Rur River.
Discovering this town was famous for its mustard was an added bonus, as I do love my gourmet mustards. The Mustard Mill, dating back to 1882, is one of the last historic mills in Germany, and it continues to produce the traditional recipe, along with 19 other varieties. To visit the historic mill, it is a 15-minute walk up the hill or you will find a small shop in town where you can sample and buy their 19 unique flavours of garlic, horseradish, honey, curry, tomato, and many more. We walked away with 2 jars, and even though the mustard is long gone, I have kept the lovely pottery-style jars as they are just too nice to throw away.
Although this is a small town, and you could walk through its entirety within a half an hour, you will find you can easily spend half a day here just persuing all the different shops. Walking up the hill to the castle affords you wonderful views of the grey rooftops below. After strolling the town for a while, we decided to sit down for a late lunch in the Markt (or market square) for some traditional German food and beer.
Undeniably, our visit to Monschau did not disappoint. It is definitely one of the most quintessential, picturesque German towns I have ever visited; and I have seen a lot! It is back on my bucket list to return again for the Christmas market some day, I can only imagine how magical it must be.